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What can Bills Reasonably Expect From Kaiir Elam in Rookie Season?

Like Tre'Davious White in 2017, Elam could be ready to start and play at a high level right away.

As the last player with a first-round grade remaining on the Buffalo Bills' NFL Draft board late in the first round last month, Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam suddenly became their top priority.

General manager Brandon Beane attempted to trade up from their original position of 25 to 22 to grab him, then settled for a deal with the Baltimore Ravens to go to 23 and make Elam their first pick of this year's Draft.

From than moment, Elam has been so singularly focused on helping his new team right away that he requested a playbook be sent to him so he could study it on the flight to Buffalo for his introductory press conference.

"That's probably overblown a little bit, to be honest with you," coach Sean McDermott confessed at the start of rookie camp on Friday, "but just the way he handled himself as a professional in that in that process around the [NFL Scouting] Combine and then his top-30 visit, we got to know him a little bit better.

"So I thought off the field, the way he handled himself was first class. And then the tape spoke for itself. Certainly he do things on the field there, we think, in our system. It will be good and he'll be able to play well and mutually beneficial approach to press [coverage], off, changing some things up. And he's got a great support system behind him."

Nevertheless, barring the addition of a veteran free agent, the Bills will most likely be in a position where they're depending on this rookie to deliver right away, much the way Tre'Davious White did after being selected 27th overall in the 2017 Draft.

That's because in addition to seeing fellow starter Levi Wallace depart in free agency, they are monitoring the progress White is making while recovering from an ACL tear less than six full months ago.

Regardless of how they feel about Dane Jackson, who is next up on the depth chart, the Bills remain thinnest at this position, and would benefit immensely if Elam and Villanova's Christian Benford, who was drafted in the sixth round, turn into plug-and-play corners.

Elam certainly believes he can be.

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"Honestly, I just tried to embrace it all, tried to learn as much as I can," he said after his first practice. "But I mean, it's what I expected. It's probably a little bit more than in college, I would say, just detail-wise. But like I said, football is football at the end of the day."

Another believer is Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports, who ranks Elam as the NFL's No. 6 potential instant-impact rookie of 2022.

His analysis:

The Bills will get No. 1 cornerback Tre'Davious White back this season from a torn ACL he suffered on Thanksgiving against the Saints. Elam will assume No. 2 cornerback duties in a defensive scheme that got the most out of former undrafted free agent Levi Wallace and seventh-round pick Dane Jackson. Elam is head and shoulders a better all-around athlete than Wallace and Jackson and will enter the NFL with more coverage polish. In Buffalo's established scheme, Elam is going to thrive, instantly.

Needless to say, expectations are high for Elam, who brings length (6 feet, 2 inches), speed (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and seemingly unlimited desire but will have to prove himself after starting the offseason behind Jackson on the depth chart.

The rookie is taking every challenge in his typically long stride.

"I'm just focusing on tomorrow," Elam said. Honestly, I got done with practice, I'll just focus on the next meeting. ... Like I said, football is football. I'm just trying to focus on the next step. I've got a meeting after this, so I'm just trying to focus on that."

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Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to